Book 9 - The Mist in the Darkness - Chapter 18 and 19 - Abundant Questions and The Sharp Truth

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httyyd
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Joined: 10/12/2013

I took long on the next chapter because I knew where it was going to go.  So, I took the time to write the chapter after it.  Here are the two latest chapters for the book.

 

I hope you all enjoy!

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Book 10 - The Shattered Axe

Chapter 17 - Back on Track

 

The Jarl Mollerson Mystery Series

All Chapter Links
 

 

Destiny in the Dark

Chapter 3 - Friends and Enemies

 

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Here are links to the chapters of my fan-fic series.  The books go in chronological order.

 

The Clue of the Missing Socks.

Chapters 1 and 2                         Chapter 3                                       Chapter 4

Chapter 5                                      Chapter 6                                        Chapter 7

Chapters 8 and 9                        Chapter 10                                     Chapter 11

Chapters 12 and 13                     Chapters 14, 15, and 16             Chapter 17

Chapter 18                                    Chapter 19                                      Chapter 20

Chapter 21 and 22                      Chapter 23                                     Chapter 24 and 25

Chapter 26 - There is a hidden surprise.  Can you find it?

Chapter 27                                   Chapter 28, Part 1                         Chapter 28, Part 2

Chapter 29                                   Chapter 30                                       Chapter 31

Chapter 32                                   Chapter 33                                       Chapter 34

Chapter 35                                   Chapter 36                                       Chapter 37

Chapter 38                                   Chapter 39                                       Chapter 40

Chapter 41                                   Chapter 42                                       Chapter 43

Chapter 44                                   Chapter 45, Parts 1 and 2

 

The Mysterious Frozen Fire

Chapter 1         Chapter 2         Chapter 3         Chapter 4         Chapter 5         Chapter 6

Chapter 7         Chapter 8         Chapter 9         Chapter 10       Chapter 11       Chapter 12

Chapter 13       Chapter 14       Chapter 15        Chapter 16       Chapter 17       Chapter 18  

Chapter 19       Chapter 20      Chapter 21        Chapter 22, Part 1       Chapter 22, Part 2 

Chapter 22, Part 3

Epilogue/Preview for my Third Story!

 

Thoughts of Guilt

Chapters 1 and 2          Chapters 3 and 4          Chapter 5          Chapter 6          Chapter 7

Chapter 8          Chapter 9          Chapter 10          Chapter 11          Chapter 12, Part 1

Chapter 12, Part 2          Chapter 13         Chapter 14         Chapter 15         Chapter 16

Chapter 17 and 18         Chapter 19         Chapter 20         Chapter 21         Chapter 22

Chapter 23         Chapter 24         Chapter 25         Chapter 26         Chapter 27

Chapter 28         Chapter 29         Chapter 30         Chapter 31         Chapter 32

Chapter 33         Chapter 34         Chapter 35         Chapter 36 and 37

Chapter 38, Part 1         Chapter 39, Part 2         Chapter 40, Part 3         Chapter 41

Chapter 42, Parts 1 and 2         Chapter 43         Chapter 44

Chapter 45, Part 1         Chapter 45, Part 2

 

On the Edge of Mystery

Chapter 1          Chapter 2         Chapter 3        Chapters 4 & 5    Chapter 6, Parts 1 and 2   

Chapter 7          Chapter 8         Chapter 9            Chapter 10       Chapter 11        Chapter 12

Chapter 13        Chapter 14       Chapter 15          Chapter 16        Chapter 17       Chapter 18

Chapter 19        Chapter 20       Chapter 21          Chapter 22       Chapter 23      Chapter 24

Chapter 25        Chapter 26       Chapter 27         Chapter 28        Chapter 29 Parts 1 and 2 

Chapter 30       Chapter 31       Chapter 32 and 33                         Chapter 34 Parts 1 and 2 

Chapter 35 Part 1         Chapter 35 Part 2        Chapter 35 Part 3        Chapter 36

 

The Secret Symbol

Chapter 1    Chapter 2    Chapter 3    Chapter 4    Chapter 5

Chapter 6    Chapter 7     Chapter 8    Chapter 9    Chapter 10

Chapter 11    Chapter 12    Chapter 13    Chapter 14    Chapter 15

Chapter 16    Chapter 17    Chapter 18    Chapter 19    Chapter 20

Chapter 21   Chapter 22   Chapter 23   Chapter 24 and 25

Chapter 26    Chapter 27    Chapter 28    Chapter 29 and 30

Chapter 31    Chapter 32    Chapter 33    Chapter 34    Chapter 35

Chapter 36    Chapter 37    Chapter 38    Chapter 39

Chapter 40 and 41    Chapter 42    Chapter 43, 44, 45, and 46

 

The Legend of Shadow Mountain

Chapter 1    Chapter 2    Chapter 3    Chapter 4    Chapter 5

Chapter 6    Chapter 7    Chapter 8    Chapter 9    Chapter 10

Chapter 11    Chapter 12    Chapter 13    Chapter 14    Chapter 15

Chapter 16   Chapter 17    Chapter 18    Chapter 19    Chapter 20

Chapter 21    Chapter 22    Chapter 23    Chapter 24    Chapter 25

Chapter 26    Chapter 27    Chapter 28    Chapter 29    Chapter 30

Chapter 31    Chapter 32    Chapter 33    Chapter 34    Chapter 35

Chapter 36    Chapter 37    Chapter 38    Chapter 39    Chapter 40

Chapter 41    Chapter 42    Chapter 43    Chapter 44    Chapter 45 & 46

Chapter 47    Chapter 48    Chapter 49    Chapter 50    Chapter 51

 

Teaser "Trailer" for Book 8 - Conquest of the Truth

 

The Crimson Storm

Chapters 1 and 2     Chapter 3    Chapter 4    Chapter 5    Chapter 6

Chapter 7    Chapter 8    Chapter 9    Chapters 10 and 11    Chapter 12

Chapter 13    Chapter 14    Chapter 15    Chapter 16    Chapter 17    Chapter 18

Chapter 19    Chapter 20    Chapter 21    Chapter 22    Chapter 23

Chapter 24    Chapter 25 and 26    Chapter 27    Chapter 28    Chapter 29

Chapter 30    Chapter 31    Chapter 32    Chapter 33    Chapter 34

Chapter 35 and Epilogue

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httyyd
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Joined: 10/12/2013
Drums R Round. Pi R Squared.

There is no mix for this chapter as I tried to hone in on the emotions of the chapter.  Also, another reason why I took so long is fact checking Annabeth's backstory to make sure things line up correctly.  Looked back at four other previous books.

 

The Mist in the Darkness

 

Chapter 18

Abundant Questions

 

Jarl's Point of View

 

         As if this could not get any more complex, it just did.  It seems like there is layer after layer in this mystery.  Every time I think we hit a breakthrough I find another layer to reveal.  Sure, we, including Annabeth, did not know much about her people’s life and what they were about.  Even after following Alrik’s family to a house where the rest of us could stay in for the rest of the day, Dagur said he was not expecting that connection.  He had forgotten what their last name was and did not think that it was Skygge’s as well.

         Skygge Skyjult Fiende is his full name, he told me once when we brought him to the Edge of Mystery.  Hearing Annabeth’s adopted mother’s name the same as Skygge’s middle name, I wonder if Skyjult is a sister to Skygge’s mother?  But then why does Grimwald have that name?  He could have taken his wife’s last name.  Though, only in recent years has the tradition started of taking the man’s last name in marriage.  Well, even though it might be a tradition, there are still those that will use both names interchangeably among the husband and wife; sometimes not at all as they use their titles as their last name.

         I have so many questions for Grimwald and what happened.  I am sure Annabeth has the same.  The thing I am thinking, when should I ask them?  I have to bring up the Skygge connection?  Right?  I kind of just want to talk to them now and get it over with, then having to wait until supper.

         The house which Alrik led us to is in the village square but on the outside overlooking the farmlands.  There is a stable next to it.  It is more suited for yaks and sheep, although can work for dragons too.  Once they are settled and the group is in the house with the saddlebags, Alrik bids us a good afternoon and says we can explore the island as much as we want.  When he walks, I check to make sure he is out of ear shot and actually walking away.

         Cazi asks, “What’s with you?  You’re being overly suspicious right now.”

         I reply, “Wouldn’t you be?  Annabeth’s adopted parents have the same last name as Skygge, the big bad guy we are trying to stop.”

         Annabeth speaks up, “As much as this is a lot for me to take in and comprehend, Jarl is right.  We went to my old home island for a reason.  We may not have gotten all the answers we sought, but we can find them here when we talk to them this evening.”

         Heather questions, “By the way, how are you doing?”

         “I don’t think it has hit me yet,” Annabeth responds.  “These past days have brought back so much I thought I would never have closure on.  Yet now, I have so many questions that I need answers to.”

         Dawn wonders out loud, “Is it just me or do these people have something to hide?”

         Dagur says what we are all thinking, “I think it is just you.”

         “While I think the same, I do agree there is something different here,” I tell the group.  “We were invited to explore the island, so why don’t we take advantage.  Because if Dawn is honestly suspicious and not just being Dawn, then there might be something underneath the layer they are showing us.  Cazi, go with Dawn, maybe go talk to the farmers.  Heather and Dagur, check the docks and the sailors, see if they are loose lipped like typical sailors.  I’ll stay with Annabeth and make sure we are all unpacked.  While we are here for some business, there should be no reason we can’t enjoy our time here.  We just found out that Annabeth’s childhood parents are alive, I mean come on.”

         That cheers up the group a little and they go outside.  Annabeth heads to the kitchen to see about a small lunch.

         Annabeth mentions, “I mean we also did just fight a Screaming Death, almost forgot about that part of our morning.”

         She investigates what is in the kitchen and starts to work on some of the stew ingredients we still have as well as the fresh vegetables in the cabinets, fresh fruit on the counter, and freshly cut yak meat.  Some of the ones who helped us dismount may have prepared this house in advance once they knew we were here.  Not only does this place act friendly towards dragons, the way we are being treated, they get visitors on a regular basis.

         Annabeth stops working and just stands still, leaning over the counter for a moment.  I walk over to her, and gently lay my hands on her arms before wrapping her in them.

         She lets out a sigh as she leans a bit back into me and holds my arms, “I can get why you are suspicious.  Something doesn’t feel right.  Even when I was on another island, something still felt like it was missing.  I over came my fear of coming back to the island, faced my fear of remembering the day of the attack, I am working through my fear of the future, but how come I fear talking to my own parents?  Yes, I know they’re not my real parents, but they basically are.  They raised me, they laid the foundation I still go back to, I even instinctively wear my hair the same as Skyjult.”

         “To answer your question,” I turn her around to look into her eyes.  “I would think you would want to remember your past for the good that it had in your life.  Everyone has bad parts in their pasts, we all choose to remember the good parts.  But when those good parts are called into question, we want to not believe anything that would possibly stain our memory of our past even if it is the truth.  The truth can divide just as much as it can unite.”  Now I sigh, “I am starting to wish sometimes I didn’t have to solve mysteries.  I wish sometimes I could just be a normal viking for a change, live my life, and be with you.”

         “But,” Annabeth’s smile breaks through a bit.

         “But, I see a job to be done and I need to get it done, especially if it involves helping someone else or stopping the likes of Skygge or Einar.  As much as a typical normal life would be nice, there isn’t anything typical about our normal lives.  Solving mysteries has brought me so much.  Mostly good, but some bad baggage with the choices I have made.  If I had to make the choice between living a safe life and living a purposeful life, I would pick having my life mean something.”

         Annabeth pokes me, “I thought you were trying to encourage me, not yourself.”

         “I thought if you saw that I was in worse shape than you, you’d figure you weren’t so bad,” I tell her.

         She puts her hands on her hips, “Are you saying I was bad to begin with?”

         “When your wife is better at you with understanding word choice in the moment,” I clear my throat.  “I was just trying to get a jab in too.”

         When I try to poke her, she grabs my wrist and bends it back towards me.

         “Ow, why would you do that?”

         “Oh come, on.  Does it hurt?”

         “No, but why would you do that?”

         “Astrid taught me.  When you’re a viking woman, you have to know a few tricks to keep everyone in line,” Annabeth clears her throat and turns to go back to work.  “Especially if you are married.”

         I try to think of something to say but instead count my losses and just take it.

         “Don’t stand there with your mouth open,” Annabeth says.  “Go take an apple or something and go exploring like the rest.”

         “What if I want something sweet- Ow, stop smacking me.”

         I tried reaching for her arm, but she smacked it away with her other hand, “Would you just turn around.”

         “What?”

         “I said I wanted something sweet,” I take her chin and lift it up.
         “Oh,” she grins.

         We kiss.

         We had closed our eyes, so I did not see when Annabeth is done.  She pulls away and then sticks an apple in my mouth.

         “You don’t want to ruin your lunch by having too much sweet stuff beforehand,” she winks at me.

         After taking the bite of the apple, I reply, “Aw come on.  It’s just a kiss.”

         Her head slowly turns…  Holding the kitchen knife, “And this is just a sharp blade.”

         “Congratulations, I didn’t know you could figure that out.”

         “I didn’t know you could still speak to your wife like that who is still holding said blade.”

         “I’mma head out now, before I dig my grave.”

         “Oh, that was dug long ago.  Just waiting for the right time to make you walk into it.”

         “Oh, the burns,” I smile.  “Where’s the nearest river to jump into?”

         “Why just a river, there’s literally an ocean just outside the window.  Go jump in that, you’re already salty.”

         “Yowsers, it’s too hot in here.  See you later.”

         She knows what I mean.  I know what I mean.  But how can she still get the better of me?  I have taught her too well.  The student has transcended the master.  Puns, being a girl, and learning from the best, a deadly combo for even the master to overcome.  Especially when married.

         Taking Annabeth’s suggestion, I then also take Fredrick with me to explore the island.  I spend a good twenty minutes walking or flying from place to place simply to get a feel for the place.  While a lot can be learned from talking to someone, I find that observing can tell the tail a lot clearer.  Growing up, everyone was doing everything else before I did.  So, whether good or bad, I was always the one observing what went on.  Guess those skills are serving me well now as a sleuth.

         Everything sounds and looks normal, but I hear and see signs that there is something more.  While the people sound like farmers of land, they have the equipment to be hunters.  Not only hunters for small game, but hunters for a launched attack or even a defense of an attack force.  The docks have enough ships for a fleet, around twenty and all medium sized ships, which are equipped with catapults.  Talking to the people, I get the distinct feeling they are intentionally keeping something from me.

         Like if I ask about what they do for a profession, like Grimwald asked me, I only get answers about their history.  Telling me what you did is not telling me what you do.  Flat out dodging a question is one thing, subtly dodging a question and half answering it tells me there is something else that you are not willing to share.  I have a pretty good idea who the source is that can tell me what is going on.

         The frustration is mounting with regards to the mystery.  The more I seek answer for questions I have, I find no answer but only new questions.

         I suddenly feel a pain in my chest, like heartburn.  Returning back to the house and putting Fredrick in the stables, I stop for a moment and take a listen.  I hear something coming from the back of the house.  Walking there, I stop short of the corner for I hear – Annabeth sobbing.  It finally hit her.

         For as much as the typical thing to do in this situation is to leave someone alone in this time, let them deal with it in their own time, I am anything but typical.  I go to my Heart.

         Rounding the corner of the house, finding her kneeling down on both knees.  I stand there wondering how I should approach her.  She instead stands up and rushes into me.

         Caught off guard a tad, I ask, “How did you know it was me?”

         Annabeth manages to reply, “Anytime I really need you, even when I wanted to be alone, you always come back to me.”

         We stand there for a few minutes until she calms down.

         Stepping back and seeing what she was kneeling down over… It is yak milk.

         I look at Annabeth.

         She looks at me.

         I try to keep a straight face, but the stare down causes us to both have grins.

         I tell her through my smile, “This is no time to cry over spilt milk.”

         Annabeth closes her eyes and can only sigh, “I knew you were going to say that.  Then when you paused, you were wondering if you should say it.  But unlike anyone else, you were going to say it anyway.  That’s what I love to hate about you.”  She throws a few jabs my way.  “Next time, though, say that you are coming behind me.  Because I half thought it was someone else, but then I knew it was you.  You should know better than to sneak up on a Berserker like that.  But, in this case, I’m glad you did.”

         Helping Annabeth set the table for lunch, the rest of the group soon returned.  Throughout the lunch, most everyone had the same reactions to this island that I did but comment they may just be thinking this way because the suggestion the people are hiding something.  Dawn, on the other hand, is being Dawn and is even more suspicious.

         We decide to go to their Great Hall and hang out until supper.  The people are very gracious and friendly, but still dodge questions about what they are currently doing.

         Evening finally came.  We met Grimwald and his wife Sky, which she insisted we call her, at the front of their Great Hall.  Their official term is The Gathering Place.  It is smaller than Berk’s Great Hall.  Grimwald explains the size by saying that most everyone stays home for a family supper.

         “Family is everything around here.”

         He and his wife do eat in their Gathering Place from time to time; they do so in a back room where conferences and councils are held.  Entering the room, we are amazed to see a table full of food…  A forty foot by ten-foot table with all kinds of food on it.  Granted, we are not the only ones to attend as there are more chairs around the table, but still.  Did not know this deserved this much food.  Then again, what would I do had I just found out after almost fifteen years that my daughter I thought had died is actually alive, adopted or not?

         Alrik and his family came in shortly after along with seven others who introduced themselves as high ranking elders on their council.

         Alrik’s daughter had returned from her trip from distracting the Screaming Death.  Her name is Gyda.  She is the older of the two by a couple of years, maybe eighteen years old while her brother is fifteen.  She has dark brown hair, double braided down her back.  She wears a green long sleeve shirt with a half brown fur stole tunic.  Brown pants, boots, and a belt with a skirt in the shape of triangle draping down to a point.  The skirt is not a full skirt as there is a gap for her legs to be partially shown.

         Something finally made sense.  Of all the gear these people wear, they do not wear any gear that would incumber movement.  Probably helps them out while they farm and would also be lighter to not get as warm while working.  Yet, something else sticks in the back of my mind that I need to think about.

         Grimwald and Sky sit at the head of the table to the left.  Annabeth and I are welcomed to sit at their right hand.  Grimwald looked at me as if to think I would sit to his right.  I give this honor to Annabeth.  Surprised for a second yet is glad for it.  Dagur and Heather sit across from Annabeth and me.  Cazi next to me and Dawn across from her.  Next, Alrik and his wife with their two kids across from them.  The rest of those attending sat around to the right.

         The food being served is as follows:  Roasted boar along with bacon, grilled yak, cooked chicken, cabbage with three types of dressings, corn, carrots, boiled eggs, elderberries, fresh baked bread, rolls, biscuits, and water, milk, or fresh juice to drink.  For dessert, chocolate bars, honey, strawberries, and yak butter parfait.

         All of this food clearly tells me these people are well off, at least in terms of food.  On the other hand, do we get all of this food in celebration of Annabeth’s return?  How much food do they have at any one time?

         While my crew and I are all hungry for answers to our questions, Grimwald insisted we first tell them about our adventures, especially how Annabeth and I met.  Annabeth is just as excited to start talking about the rest of us as wanting to get her own answers.  Even this close to knowing her past, she still thinks of others.

         She starts with “The Clue of the Missing Socks.”  She talks about it in great detail as though she was there…  Annabeth did not arrive on the scene until “The Mysterious Frozen Fire.”  Sure, I wrote down each adventure, but Annabeth is saying some details I did not know about.  Cazi confirms some of them, though even she came in late into the first adventure.  The details are merely where people were and what they were doing while I was not there.  Both her and Cazi must have talked about my crew’s first mystery with the other original members.

         As Annabeth starts the second adventure, no doubt memories come flooding back.  Besides pausing for longer describing how she arrived on Berk and what the rest of us were doing during our snowball fight, no water welled up nor tears shed.  The same can be said for “Thoughts of Guilt.”  She jokingly downplayed the life-threatening parts, which Sky wanted clarification.  Grimwald and Alrik had been half listening to start until the mention of Truvor and all he did at with The Golden Isles.  Grimwald started closely listening more while he ate.  Furthermore, he is intrigued by our Dragon Racing.  While Annabeth did describe The Golden Isles, Sky was extra quiet.  At least until mention of the Shadow Dragon.  Sky wondered what it would look like and what it could do.  To this day, even we do not fully know the capabilities of the Shadow Dragon, also the Shade Fury.

         “Thoughts of Guilt” is also the time when Annabeth found out she is a Berserker.  Heather chimed in to tell about how she found out by Hiccup seeing her horn she had and comparing its seal to his father’s chief’s seal.  Annabeth has a nearly identical horn as Heather.  When Heather found out, she then told Annabeth.  At the time, Annabeth did not know who Heather was, although I did.  Heather led a complex life then and did not know really who to trust.  At the time, it did not seem important that Annabeth know her name.  Heather was just the Rogue Dragon Rider.

         “On the Edge of Mystery” and “The Secret Symbol” are rather straight forward.  Well, for us anyway, compared to the ones we have had lately.  However, as Annabeth goes back over each one, I forgot how involved they got.

         Annabeth’s past, little by little, became known to us.  Not only is Annabeth a Berserker, but Oswald the Agreeable her father and Dagur and Heather her brother and sister.

         “On the Edge of Mystery” might be one of my most memorable moments when Annabeth.  It was the first time our friendship was truly tested.  Just how much trust and hope did we have in each other, for that is when I thought Annabeth threw away our friendship for the sake of gaining an evil brother in Dagur at the time.  Had it not been for the fact of our close friendship at the time and making the pact that if the other was not wearing their locket, something was clearly wrong yet could not tell the other about it because of those around.

         This adventure also gave us our first fight together, literal fight together.  First time I had ever punched a girl.  Again, siblings do not count.

         Asvord one time punched me and I told my mother.  She told me, “Well, punch her back.”  Even when I was a kid, I took things literally.  I punched Asvord in the back.  From then on, we had glorious sibling fights.  Then when Elsa came along, we tried to set a better example.  We only jabbed each other then and started working on dodging and evades.  Come to think of it, I learned most of my fighting style from Asvord.

         Annabeth rubs her jaw as if she can still feel where my punch landed.

         “It took all the coaxing in the world to make him punch me.  We had to make it look good in front of Dagur or else he would have known something was up.  We had to get to our escape route down the shaft where I placed a bin of straw.  Even when I tried actually punching him, he still did not defend himself.  It took me insulting his mother’s cooking for him to punch me.”

         Sky laughs and glances at Grimwald.  He grunts and tells Annabeth to continue.  I get the feeling Sky went through something similar to have those reactions from Sky and Grimwald.

         During “The Secret Symbol”, I got into another fight with Annabeth.  But she was fighting against her will because one Thorgunna Vixxen came upon the scene as my first rival since Truvor.  Vixxen hypnotized Annabeth during our final showdown with Vixxen.  It turned out to be a stalemate in which Vixxen let us go as long as we let her go.  Considering the circumstances, we took it.

         Also, in this mystery, I saw how much Annabeth meant to me and started to see how far I would be willing to go for her.  Our friendship had gotten closer and closer to each other until it blossomed into a relationship.  Over the course of the years spent on Mystery’s Edge, we became very close.  With each pass mystery, I knew who I could not be without.  At the end, I proposed marriage to her by use of the traditional song of marriage of Berk, “For the Dancing and the Dreaming.”

         “On the Edge of Mystery” and “The Secret Symbol” had their twists and turns with new foes and clues to follow, but little did we know how their importance would hold when dealing with the next two, “Mystery of Shadow Mountain” and “The Crimson Storm.”

         “Mystery of Shadow Mountain” is by far the longest mystery I have written down for it had a ton of detail to recall.  But it is the last time I take that long of a trip on a ship only to be shipwrecked.  One of the other details nearly cost me my family, my life, and my Heart when we were first on Shadow Mountain.  But thanks to some new friends including Fira, it changed the whole make up of the mystery.  Viggo Grimborn and the guy Aberdeen were two interesting characters to deal with.  Again, we had to deal with Vixxen and tried to stop what she had planned when we had to return to Shadow Mountain.

         Annabeth casually adds, “Oh, did I mention we had to battle four Purple Deaths?”

         Everyone’s reactions are priceless.  After all that we had been through in that mystery, it was concluded with dealing with four giant dragons long thought not to be real.

         I interject, “As Annabeth once haphazardly said, ‘Welcome to life with the Mollersons.’”

         Now “The Crimson Storm.”  Probably the one I hate to love how it went.  For the longest time, my crew and I were seemingly invincible through our adventures.  Individually, we lost some things here and there, but in the end, we still had each other and could count on each other.  But when on Einar Verodfellar made himself known, then I finally knew what defeat felt like.  There had been dangers before in many forms, but to see the love of your life falling down the mouth of a volcano of lava puts everything else you knew into perspective.  But what it reminded me is the hope and trust we put into the people and animals around us.  All the way in the beginning with “The Clue of the Missing Socks” I met a certain Titan Wing Grapple Grounder.  After that time, I saw him here and there.  All he was doing was biding his time until we really needed him.  Turns out, a Titan Wing Grapple Grounder is the natural rival to the Titan Wing Gale Heart Dragon.  But that was not the only Titan to save the day then.  One blue Stormcutter named Star Scream saved both Annabeth’s life and mine.  An act Star Scream does not let me forget, nor do I ever hope to forget it.

         The reason why I hate to love this mystery is how it ended.  It showed me just how much I care for one Annabeth Everdeen and how much she is my life.  I had already proposed to Annabeth, but now I choose to promise my life to her.  We set the date for Snoggletog.  Which now brings Annabeth to the Wedding.

         Annabeth has so much fun remembering what happened at our wedding day, the days that led up to it and the day after where we had our first fight as a married couple…  Fight as in we sparred together with Hiccup and Astrid.  It was the single biggest event in Berkian history to this day, because it was the first marriage between a Berkian and a Berserkian.  Two clans who had long been at odds with each other finally made it official to be allies with the marriage union of Annabeth and me.

         Beyond the ceremony itself, her favorite memory was the surprise group dance and song I did for her to make the night memorable for her.

         As Annabeth finished up what happened the day after, a thought occurred to me, “Our wedding was the last major event Stoick ever oversaw in Berk.”  It puts a lot more things into perspective.

         Now comes our most recent mystery, “Conquest for the Truth.”  All of our adventures had readied us for the moment Garth had been secretly hoping for:  An army to finally end The Dragon War which had plagued his home to the far north for generations.  While he did not get an army from us, he got a full crew of friends willing to put their lives on the line to help.  I still wonder how we were able to do it all.  But Annabeth says, “With Jarl leading us, I saw no other way it could have ended but in victory.”  With all that happened during that time, I find it hard sometimes to call it a victory.  Izarian lives were lost, Einar’s remaining fleet retreated, and Skygge, Theodor, and others escaped.  Annabeth made it clear to mention all the good that did come out of it.  We stopped a long war from continuing one some thought would never end on Izar, we captured the leader of Dragon Conquerors to finally make him pay for all he has done, Vixxen turned from her old ways, Vixxen reconciled with her peopled and they did with her.

         There are other things she said about our latest adventure that the rest of us already know.  There is another thought.  It is hard to believe that “Conquest for the Truth” only finished a few months ago.  By now, it feels like years ago.

         I had not realized, but the elders who dined with us had left.  Not sure exactly when they left, but it was at least until the beginning of Annabeth recalling “Conquest for the Truth.”

         Annabeth then caught them up to speed on where our current mystery stands and why we came to Annabeth’s old home, searching for answers.  Answers we finally get to have from Grimwald.

         All this time while Annabeth spoke about our adventures, we had agreed not to mention Skygge because of his last name.  If he is related to Grimwald and Skygge, that could easily be a touchy subject if brought up.  That being said, Annabeth really did not want me to bring it up and upset her parents.  Yet, her look said she knew I was going to ask them about it because of the mystery and stopping what Skygge is up to.  I will at least wait until Annabeth gets the answers about her past because I already know how this might go about me mentioning Skygge.  I hope it does not though.

         We as well as the rest had finished up supper.

         A few of us were still munching on dessert as Grimwald started, “I think I have made you wait long enough.”

 

 

Chapter 19

The Sharp Truth

 

Jarl's Point of View

 

         Grimwald settles back in his chair, “It all started when Oswald was still named Oswald the Antagonistic.  This island and the Northern Island were allies to Oswald.  After a long and hard-fought skirmish of attacking an island to the south, Oswald returned home with half of his force he left with.  Sky and I were on hand to see his return.  He came back a different man.  His son Dagur wanted him to go out again.  His second in command, a young and eager viking coming up through the ranks, wanted him to go out again too.  Hit the enemy even harder the second time.  Oswald was not hearing any of it but went straight to his room and shut the door.  Hearing he was home, you, Annabeth went into his room.  No one knows what you said nor what he said to you, but when he came out, he looked like his old self yet had a different demeanor.”

         “With the loss in the battle, it was only a matter of time before those they were attacking would come to Berserker Island.  Oswald’s preemptive strike against them was to try and weaken their force and discourage them from attacking Berserker Island.  Now with the loss, an attack on Berserker Island felt imminent.  Against many of his advisors, he went out alone to return to the place he just attacked to try and settle for peace.  Myself included among those who tried to reason against this wild idea, Oswald knew he needed to change.  He then told me, ‘I have done it with Berk, I can certainly do it with them.  The Berkians and Berserkers have their differences, but if we can work them out, then we can work out our differences with everyone else.’”

         Sky picked up, “Turns out Oswald was able to broker terms of peace with the vikings whom the Berserkers had been at odds with.  However, he did so at a great cost.  As I am sure you know, the Berserker Tribe is one that has great pride in their history and their traditions.  If someone tries to take that from them, a Berserker will take it back.  But Oswald said that has been the problem which had plagued the tribe for so many years, he was just blind to see he could not do it for the tribe.  The cost of this peace went further than just stopping the raids on ships from either side…  It included the island’s leaders a seat at the table to discuss what the Berserkers could do for them.  Knowing what had happened to Heather and how she went missing, allowing these vikings a seat at the table was like a knife to the gut.  Berserkers are the ones who are supposed to tell everyone else what to do.  The more Oswald tried to work things out with that island, the more those inside his own ranks nicknamed him, ‘Oswald the Agreeable.’”

         Heather questions, “Wasn’t he named that for his ability to bring about a peaceful result?”

         Sky replies, “Some might see it like that while others used it as a derogatory term to say Oswald would agree to anything just so long as there was peace.”

         I add, “What my parents have told me about the peace with the Berserkers and what I have learned from their history books, Oswald the Agreeable, once he changed from his old ways, was a man of peace and not asking for anything in return.  There was no need for fighting that both sides could benefit from peace.”

         “Again, some saw it a different way,” Sky explains.  “What Oswald is remembered for is very different from the man other vikings saw him as.  Sometimes you cannot make someone see what you want them to see.  Sometimes the truth stings as much as a back hand across the cheek.”

         Grimwald went on, “Growing tensions rose as more and more disagreed with Oswald.  There were no wars with any one island anymore, but the cost of peace was too much to bear for a lot of Oswald’s allies.  It got to the point that Oswald’s show of power by parading his Armada here and there was all he had.  No one else dared to try and challenge him while he still had his Armada.  This all happened in a very short amount of time.  The Berserkers went from being one of the largest powers of the archipelago to just another island.  Trading with other islands soon stopped and other vikings started disrespecting what the Berserker nation had become.  The allies he had left, he started to heavily rely on them for trade.  One of the reasons why he and the chief of Berk became so close.”

         “When it became apparent that those inside his own ranks were going to attempt a coup, he knew his family would not be safe.  A single father trying to raise two children while trying to lead a tribe and keep peace with other islands, he knew it was no place to raise a family.  His wife had died soon after she gave birth to Annabeth and so he knew he could not give what he needed to give to Annabeth.  Dagur had already started to show signs of wanting to restore the Berserkers to their former glory.  Knowing Dagur could take care of himself, Oswald came to me one night asking me to take his daughter away.  My tribe and this island were the only other allies he had besides Berk.  Although, Berk did not want to get more involved than they had to because they had their own problems with the dragon attacks.  I tried to say no, but it was not the answer Oswald was looking for.  When I finally gave in, you had come in through the door.  You kept asking what was going on, but your father picked you up one last time, telling you, ‘Annabeth, you are going on a trip I cannot come with you.  You will have lots of toys and a family that loves you.  But most importantly, you will be safe.’  In your soft-spoken voice, you told him, ‘But I can fight next to you.  If no one will keep you safe, then I will.’  From an early age, Annabeth, you were looking out for others not yourself.”

         “He must have known something was going to happen the next day for he started working after talking with you in making your trip to the Northern Island official.  He wrote a letter in an unused Berserkian dialect and used the special seal of Berserkian chiefs of generations only known to be used in family matters of chiefs.  For your own safety, he exaggerated a few details here and there to be sure that if the letter was ever intercepted, they could not easily find you.  He did, however, make an official document for if there was the need to find the heir to the throne of the Berserker Tribe, the people then could use the second document to prove that you are the heir to the throne of the Berserkers because of the seal used.  So, you could further confirm this, he used this seal on a locket which he gave to you.  It was your mother’s locket he had kept with him.  Upon using the seal on the metal locket, it cracked the seal which changed the look of the imprint on the locket.  He said this would further be a sign for you and to anyone else that he picks you to be the future chieftess of the tribe after Dagur.”

         Annabeth has gotten the locket out and showed just what the minor flaw in the seal was.  Come to find out from studying the history books of the Berserkers, that the seal is actually a front facing Skrill with its wings extended.  The seal’s containing circle must have ended up breaking making the flaw which is an unconnected circle around the Skrill.

         “This seal had only been used on paper and was already many years old.  The strain of being used on hot metal was enough to render the seal useless.  No longer could it be used on a flat surface nor be used with its flawed containment.  Oswald said, ‘My daughter can use this as a sign to prove she is a Berserker and heir to the throne.  If Dagur is unable to lead the Berserkers, then our tribe will be broken like this seal until her return.’”

         Grimwald quieted down as if thinking about something so Sky went on with the account, “Hearing Heather talk about how she learned about Berserkian matters and researching the history on them, she was right when saying the seal was used on a personal letter between the leader and a trusted aid…  His sister.  I am Oswald’s sister.  My marriage to Grimwald was to gain an ally with the Northern Island and this island.  It was my idea to make it unclear whether it was Oswald’s wife or his sister to further mask your location.  Oswald made us promise that we would never return and would keep your history a secret until the time was right to reveal it to you.  Once we finally returned home, it took a while for you to finally come to grips with why Oswald left you.  But keeping you busy in working in our own business of running our tribe helped.  When Cazi Olson became a friend, that is what truly helped.  On your own, you did forget about Oswald.  You were so young when this all happened that Oswald hoped that it would be natural to forget about him.  Grimwald and I would never forget what he did.”

         Grimwald came back in, “Then come to find out through rumors and scouts that the coup never happened when Oswald kept putting more responsibilities on Dagur as a soon to be successor to the throne.  I wonder if Oswald thought that if the people of Berserker Island saw Dagur as their leader, they would forget about everyone else and just focus on wanting Dagur to be their leader.  Furthermore, we found out that Oswald spent less and less time on Berserker Island and more and more days to weeks out exploring and researching things.  It got to the point where we lost track of how the Berserkers were doing until we got news of his death.  Then when Dagur fully took over, things changed again.”

         Dagur’s reaction to all of this is very reserved with his head looking down, staring at his parfait; no doubt thinking he could have done more to help.

         “With that chapter behind us, we then had to figure out how to be self-sufficient without Oswald’s help, because aid suddenly stopped with for no reason.  That is where this island truly saved us.  They too were cut off by the Berserkers, so we banded together to help each other.  They supplied the food.  We supplied the materials.  For nearly fifteen years, this back and forth went uninterrupted.  Until one week it did not.”

         “There was a shipment of food long overdue.  Our worst fears started manifested into reality.  They had finally found us.  They were coming for you, Annabeth.  I had ordered the fishmen to scout the area to the south while they hauled in the fish.  We did this for a couple of weeks to make it look like everything was normal all the while knowing there were ships on the horizon.  One fateful evening a thick fog rolled in.  Because of the fog rolling in, I had to signal for the fishermen to come in early.  We had already mustered the best defense we could handle.  We were a small island.  If the force was not too big, we might have been fine.  But the numbers from our fishermen said the ships on the horizon to the east would always change.  We did not know what we were up against.  They came right at supper.”

         Grimwald saw Annabeth’s expression as she looked down, and so skipped some of the details, “When we saw we could not outlast them, we knew we had to escape.  The last thing Oswald told me, ‘If you ever run into trouble and I am unable to help you, go to Berk.  They will help.’  While Annabeth tried to lead who was left out the back through the mountain, we tried to draw fire by escaping by ship.  Before we could even get to the ships, they were destroyed.  We met Annabeth back at our house and urged Annabeth to leave us.  But seeing we had two dragons, Annabeth pleaded with us that we try to escape too.  At this point, it was every man for himself.  Not wanting to let Oswald down, I knew I had to try.”

         “When we left our house, we were attacked and separated from Annabeth.  The group of attackers came after us first, so we tried our best to lead them away.  Once we had taken care of them and returned, Annabeth was gone.  We wanted to try and search but knew if we stayed out in the open for very long, we too would have been lost.  So, Sky and I went and took one of attackers’ ships and fled south.  No one had been guarding their ships.  Probably thought they did not need to and could simply overwhelm us.  When we arrived here, we found and even worse scene.  The attackers had been here first.  It was a massacre.  Hardly anyone left on the island.  Within a few days, some from the north were able to make to this island.  And from there, we rebuilt the island into what it is today.”

         There came a pause before Grimwald asked, “Now, I understand you and your friends have been asking a lot of questions.  Are there any you would want to ask now?”

         Grimwald will not even wait to let Annabeth comprehend what she just heard concerning Oswald?  Grimwald has the nerve to just ignore her?

         Annabeth kind of shakes herself back to the present and says, “Jarl has some questions he would like to ask.”

         “Go ahead,” he confirms.

         I lean forward to rest my arms on the table as I question Grimwald, “A lot of what you said about Oswald will take some time to comprehend.  Everything matches up with everything else my crew and I have found about Annabeth’s past.  There is one thing I would like to clarify about the attack before I ask my other questions.  Do you know how the attackers were?”

         Grimwald answered, “They were Berserkers.”

         “Are you sure?”

         Grimwald folds his arms, wondering why I am not satisfied.

         Seeing this, I add, “It is just that from what you described and what Annabeth remembers seeing, the attackers were not Berserkers.  Even though some of the Berserkers had been out to overthrow Oswald in favor of Dagur, for the Berserkers to then attack you after nearly fifteen years…  It seems a bit far fetched that it would be the Berserkers.  Annabeth’s own description describes their body type as much bigger, taller, and muscular than the average Berserker.  Annabeth, would you go as far as to say the gear they had resembled Berserkian yet not entirely Berserkian.”

         Annabeth nodded.

         I continued, “I just wondered if you had been thinking along the same lines in who attack you.”

         Grimwald did not answer, but Sky did, “We did think of the possibility of the attackers being someone else.”

         “That is the one question that still puzzles me about Annabeth’s past.  I might have more about Oswald.  Although, at this point, what Oswald did was done.  We ourselves got those answers a while back about what Oswald did.  We just did not know what Oswald was apologizing for,” I conclude that question before going on to what I really want to know.  “My main question I would like to ask you, your wife, or even Alrik is:  What are you currently doing?”

         Grimwald stares at me.  Noticing I will not let this go, Sky tries to answer for him, “We’re just farmers trying to live a simple life away from each other.”

         “Excuse me for saying otherwise, but I think there is more to your people than everyone is letting on to be.  I did say solving mysteries is my trade,” I look directly at Grimwald.  “A couple of subtle things were mentioned while you told us about Oswald and that whole situation.”

         I go on, “Your remarks about how Oswald should have gone out again after returning from a failed attack.  Your words may have been innocent enough, but the conviction behind them says otherwise.  If Oswald went against many of his advisors, an honest question to ask would be:  Are you one of those advisors that wished he would have made another attack?  I mean, you admitted to trying to reason against the idea of settling for peace.  You both try to label the Berserker tribe as a prideful people.  While that may be true, the people I have talked to on Berserker Island about their history hail Oswald as their greatest chief they can ever remember.  They loved the day he turned from Oswald the Antagonistic to Oswald the Agreeable.  The people gave him that title as a compliment, not a derogatory label.  Vorg, the Captain of the Berserker Armada was loyal to whoever was on the throne.  But when any Berserker, they are independent to do what is best for their people.  Vorg was loyal to Dagur when he came into power.  He is still loyal to this day after Dagur changed his ways for the better.  The majority of vikings I have talked to, paint Oswald in a different light than you do.  When I tried to mention how others saw Oswald in the light we do, you and Sky both said otherwise.  I can understand the position Oswald was in.  He would have been going against the traditions of many generations to start something new.  Even if he was alone in that decision at the start, he knew it had to be done if his people were to change for the better.  There is someone else we know who was in a similar position and is held in high asteem among my people.”

         Grimwald then stood up and face the wall.  He still does not want to listen.

         I stand up and walk up behind him, saying, “The life of Oswald is still a mystery of itself.  How many people did he ally with before he changed and who were his enemies?  When he did change, did those he regard as allies turn foe and those who were foes turn allies?  I mean, Berk was once a foe and now the closest and most trusted ally the Berserkers have.  If you were such good friends with Oswald, why didn't you go back to help Dagur.  He was a young and reckless kid who was scared he couldn't lead like his father did.  No offense.”

         “None taken,” Dagur answered.

         “Oswald may have his opportunity with Heather before they were separated to make sure she had a family to keep her safe and therefore wanted to do the same for Annabeth.  But have you stopped to think that maybe, years later, he would have regretted giving up Annabeth and had wished she had grown up with her real father?  Maybe all Oswald need was a little encouragement to do what was best for himself.  Oswald sounded like the man who would do everything for everyone else, including his own daughter, but then realize years later that it did more harm than it did good.  You said that Oswald came back after the attack on the foe they were facing at the time, a changed man.  But it wasn't until he received a little encouragement from Annabeth to then take action and do what he thought he couldn't.  You at first did not want to take Oswald's daughter away from him even if he asked you.  But until you got a little encourage, you gave in.  Then when you were telling Annabeth she should escape herself and they would stay behind, Annabeth gave a little encouragement that made you do something that you would have regretted today not trying.  You tried to escape with Oswald's daughter and keep her safe by seeing to it.  Sure, the attackers came, but as you said, every man for himself.  If Oswald was there he would have risked life and limb to find Annabeth and make sure he was safe.  But no one was there to encourage you to do it.  You just left Annabeth alone in a burning building.”

         At that remark, he turned around, “Yeah, that's right.  Annabeth was in the storehouse trying to do what you said.  But did you go and bother to check?  No.  Just like you did not go back to help the Berserkers.  Fifteen years and you did not want to go back?  Just because Oswald never came back does not relinquish you of your duty to his family.  You still tried taking care of Annabeth, did you not think about Dagur or even trying to find where Heather went?  Maybe if you had gone back to Berserker Island to reestablish being allies with them, maybe you would have had the forces needed to repel the attackers.  There would have been no need for the loss you suffered.  But even because you didn't, you still could have gone for help.  You said you had weeks to prepare a defense.  Only a week at best would have been needed to sail to Berk and get help.  Oswald's own advice to you.  Mentioning Oswald's name would have been enough to have Stoick send help.  But did you do it?  No.  Maybe the fact you did not go back to Berserker Island or follow Oswald's advice is because you never agreed with him in the first place.  You were against him from the start, but because your own people were too small to fend for themselves you knew you had to keep good relations with Oswald to survive.  The loss of two daughters and son was too much for Oswald to go on that he tried to seek out ways to right his wrongs.”

         Grimwald finally responded, and jabbed me in the chest with his finger as he asked the first question, pushing me closer to the table, “What do you know about survival?  What do you even know about loss?  Have you ever watched your own island slain in front of your eyes no matter how much you put up a fight?  The harder you fought the worse it got.  Then once it was all over and you see the bodies everywhere, where do you start to pick up the pieces when there are no pieces to pick up?!”

         Sky stood up as he was about to pin me against the table, “GRIM!”

         He stopped and then asked, “Do you have any more questions?”

         “Yeah, just one,” I state.  “Do you know Skygge Skult Fiende?”

         With both hands, Grim picks me up by the scruff of my shirt.

         Immediately and at the same time Sky steps over and exclaims her husbands name to him and Annabeth my name to me.

         Grimwald dodges the question, “Don’t ever say that name to me again.”

         Annabeth proceeds to lay a hand on Grimwald’s arm which diverts his attention away from me.

         Grimwald lets go of me with a shove before turning back to the wall, “Get him out of my sight!”

         “Come on Jarl,” Annabeth tells me then addresses Sky.  “Thank you for the meal.”

         I turn to Sky and do the same, “Thank for the wonderful food.  It was great.”

         Sky nodded both times.

         My crew heads back to the house we were staying in.

         Not more than a minute inside does throw her arms up and points back the way we came, “What was that?”

         Dagur, Heather, Cazi, and Dawn went straight to their rooms.

         “What was what?”

         That was the wrong answer because it made Annabeth mad, “Why did you have to go at him like that?”

         “I’m sorry, but you’re adopted father is hiding something.  He still did not tell us what their people do nor do we know why he shares a last name with Skygge.”

         Emphatic with her hand gestures, she points at me with open hands, “You didn’t give him a chance to!  You’re the Mystery Conqueror here.  You’d think you would be the one to stay focused.  But no, you went and had to rip him to shreds on the choices he made just because things could have turned out better.  You jump all over him for what he did in the past, but when it is yourself…  Oh, it was all for a reason and the past is in the past.”

         Talking back, I defend what I did, “But things could have been better.  For the life of me, I want to be glad the way things turned out because I got you.”  My eyes started to water.  “I don’t want to feel that way because things could have been better.  Had Grimwald been a better friend and actually listen to Oswald’s advice, you may have had the father and family you had always wanted.”

         “But you are my family, Jarl!” she yelled at me before whispering and backing down.  “At least you were.”

         Her words made my mouth open a small amount in shock.  Annabeth’s eyes are glassy with tears pooling up.  She wants to say something more but cannot find the words.  I want to say something to her, but the words escape me.

         She ends up just saying, “Goodnight, Jarl.”

         Annabeth walks straight up the stairs and closes the door hard behind her.  I walk back out the front door and sit on the first step.

         Putting my hands on my forehead, I ask myself, “What am I doing?  How did I get here?”

         I feel a pain in my chest, and it is not heartburn.  It is a pain I have never felt before.  One that makes me sick to my stomach without being sick.

         I stare into the dirt for a while before a voice startles me from the street, “Come with me.”

         Looking up, it is Alrik, “I should probably show you something.”

         Alrik grabs a torch and takes me thirty minutes to the east to then go down a hill to an inlet cutting into the island making a small stream.

         He tells me, “Everyone on this side of the island uses this stream to do their laundry.”

         A plot of scorched land is nearby with nothing growing on it.  Walking closer to it, I see there is a small grave on the plot.  Seeing the name of the marker, I read…

         “Uskyld Fiende.”

         Before I could ask the question, Alrik answered it, “Skygge’s little sister.  She and Skygge were the children of Grimwald’s brother and wife Lys and Sannhet Fiende who died on a trading expedition into the Barbaric Archipelago.  Lys named Skygge after his brother’s wife Skyjult.  Lys and Sannhet Fiende and eight others perished.  When word finally reached us on the fate of the expedition, Skygge’s world was turned upside down when reports of the expedition being attacked by someone.  Only he and his sister remained.  Grimwald, doing what a brother should do, tried to help raise them.  But Skygge wanted no part of it.  His world grew darker and worked hard to support himself and his sister.  This meant cutting off some who were close to him, including Grimwald.  During this time, however, he grew close to his little sister Uskyld.  My family and I were one of the blessed ones to have escaped after defending was not an option.  The few of us who were able to return after escaping with our lives, I pieced together what happened with every family before burying them all.”

         “Skygge would often do a load of laundry in that stream and must have been doing so when the attack came.  As everyone else did who was on the outlying areas of where the attack started, people ran to the village to warn the people after seeing ships on the western horizon.  But there was already a small attack squad on our shores keeping us occupied as the rest of the island was pelted with flaming boulders.  I too ran to warn the village, but by the time I got there it was too late.  The attack was already under way.  The island was already starting to go up in flames.  Once defense was no longer an option as the bodies started to pile in the street as the invaders made their advance, I concentrated on getting my family out first.  But as I said, when I returned and I searched the island and buried those who I saw.  Friends and other family, all those we had known and loved, were laying unmoving in the street.  When I reached Skygge’s small house, I found little Uskyld inside.  She was stuck under debris from the roof from a boulder smacking the west side of the house.  Collecting their belongs for a memorial of those lost in the attack, little Uskyld bright light green bandana was not found on her, in the house, or in the laundry Skygge must have been washing.  He must have been the one to take it.  Whatever the invaders wanted, they got and left.  Then come to find out later that the same thing happened to the Northern Island.  Between those who survived from both island and other vikings from different parts of the region coming in and calling our island home, we rebuilt the island into what it is today.”

         “Maybe I can get a straight answer from you,” I tell Alrik and ask him.  “What is this island hiding?”

         Alrik sighs before speaking, “I probably should not tell you, but for the sake of Annabeth’s connection to Grimwald, you have a right to know.”  Alrik pauses again, “The Golden Isles and the Shade Fury.  Grimwald wants to use it to get revenge on those who attacked our island.  This island at one point in its history was an ally to The Golden Isles to the southwest of here.  This is why we were so quiet when you talked about your adventure to this place because this is exactly what we have been trying to do for so long.  Yet you only figured out one aspect of mystery found on The Golden Isles.  By working through our island’s own history, we found out that we had one key to unlocking the Shadow Dragon from its prison.  According to our legend, the one who could release this dragon would then be able to control the dragon and wreak havoc wherever it wanted.  But the final key to unlocking the door is the ability of the Shade Fury.  By the sounds of it, you and your crew already figured out that part of it.  I probably shouldn’t even be saying this now:  If you want no part of this, you will stay away from here and don’t let Grimwald use you or Annabeth for his own deeds.”

         I ask him, “What does Grimwald truly want to do?”

         “Even before the attack on our islands and while Grimwald was still an advisor to Oswald, Grimwald was already searching for the Shadow Dragon.  One of the reasons why Grimwald wanted Oswald to take the other island is because it held another key to unlocking the prison door.”

         “Why are you telling me all of this?”

         “Because this island is the staging ground for taking the might and forces Grimwald has amassed over the years to finish the fight Oswald was unwilling to do.  This fight has brought new players to the archipelago in search of power to conquer any who stands in their way.  Whatever you figured out on The Golden Isles, Grimwald will find some way to use it against you.  He might even try to use those you love against you for his own gain.  He already did it once to get Annabeth as his daughter.  He will do it again for any means necessary.”  Alrik concluded.  “Better yet, go tonight.”

         “Thank you,” I reply.

         “Don’t thank me yet, we may still meet again.  And I don’t want to choose my family over you, like Grimwald did.”

         I run back to the house and wake everyone up, saying that we should probably go.  Annabeth wonders why we should leave when we just got here, but when I mention that if we are not back by morning, Vixxen may send help after us.

         Annabeth sighs begrudgingly, “You’re probably right.  Since it has already been two days, we should probably get there before morning or else they will try to come after us just like we did for Vixxen.”

         I had already been thinking we should leave as soon as we got here, but when we found out that Annabeth’s adopted parents are still alive, it changed things.  Leaving this soon is part of the reason.  Obviously, the other reason is what Alrik told me, who by the way sees us off.

         On the trip back home, I feel like I am leaving with more questions than I got answers…  Again.

         There is just so much to comprehend all at once.  Is any of it true?  What is a lie?  I feel like I am but mist in the darkness.  The more I try to find an answer in the darkness, the deeper I get.  Am I too deep to try and pull out now?

         Questions with no answers race through my head, but one glares at me with the cold shoulder I am receiving, “After what I pulled, will Annabeth believe anything I say to the contrary of the world she thinks she is in?”